Monday, August 31, 2009

Adventures at the DMV...Again.

I'm going to try to be happy that it's Monday today. It's a beautiful day out there. There's a very slight crispness to the air, the sun is shining and as I drove in, there was a light mist hanging over the fields, enough to make it seem mysteriously beautiful.

Of course, the mere fact it's Monday makes it hard to appreciate the things like that as I drove in my Monday-Morning-Stupor but I am trying.

I did manage to have a good weekend though, for the most part. I was a good homeowner and spent a good part of the day in the garden, trying to do some weeding and clearing. I bought some shrubs and a tree on Saturday from Home Depot and planted those.

I like gardening. I find it nice to be outside, doing something useful. I probably should have stopped sooner since today, I feel like I went to the gym yesterday. My hands are stiff and sore from pulling weeds and geraniums up out of the dirt. My back feels sore from bending. It's nice to know that gardening is good exercise. It must be if my muscles ache that much. Nevertheless, I'm pleased with what I got done even though when you look at my garden, it only looks like I did a tiny piece of weeding. I'm quickly learning that it takes time to get things looking good. I have at least a few more weeks of weeding before it's going to look tidy.

It was nice to have a project to work on. It distracted me from the fact that I had yet another disappointing trip to the DMV. I say disappointing instead of infuriating because in all honesty, this time it wasn't my DMV's fault. I had to go and take my Ohio written driver's test to switchover from my California license. I passed. I was excited about that. Unfortunately, when it came time to get my license, I was told, "Oh, looks like the State of Indiana has a hold on your license." Of course, the DMV couldn't tell me why because they didn't know. They gave me a number to call. I called it. Naturally, the State of Indiana is closed on Saturdays.

I was furious. The only thing I can think of is that either a) they don't have a record of me paying the speeding ticket I got last December or b). they're mad that I didn't get my license switched over sooner.

If it's option a, then the nice little receipt I dug frantically to find should prove otherwise. If it's option b, I'm a little confused. I'd understand if I lived in the State of Indiana that yes, I know, technically I should have got my license switched over after becoming a resident. However, if the State of Ohio doesn't care then why on earth would Indiana?

Here's the thing. I just bought a house. That's a permanent residence. For all intents and purposes, my apartment was a temporary residence. Thus, I'm doing what is legal by the State of Ohio and attempting to switch my license over within 30 days of becoming a permanent Ohio citizen.

I'm baffled. I'm also infuriated that the DMV can't make anything easy. I'll find out shortly as to why I can't get my damn license.

Ok. So now I know. I had an accident in 2001 in which a lady I worked with ran a stop sign and hit me. Apparently, my insurance agent back then didn't fill out the mandatory paperwork and so, as a result, my license has been suspended because now it looks like I didn't have insurance.

I find this interesting given that it happened eight years ago and since then have been permitted to get a California license as well as get Ohio plates for my car. Nevertheless, until I can get the stupid insurance agent to get me the requisite Certificate of Compliance, I cannot be a licensed Ohio driver.

Why can things never be easy? That's what I'd love to know right now.

Still, I'm not going to let myself get stressed over this. I do have a legal license and if anything were to happen where I have to show the police my license, I certainly have a story to tell them as to why I still don't have an Ohio license. Oh, the joys of being a grown up.

Still, I will say, this trip to the DMV to take my driver's test was far less nervewracking than the last one I took when I was 16. I never had to take a test in California so it's been a great many years since I first got my license and had to take the test. So much of driving becomes second nature over time and aside from a quick read of the specific State laws for driving in Ohio, I didn't have to do much cramming. When I was 16, I was terrified of failure. I'll admit this time, I had the typical test-taking adrenaline rush that I always feel when I'm a little nervous but overall, the test was easy. I just had to close my eyes and pretend I was driving.

There were so many young teens in the DMV though and I know that for them, it was a far more nerve-wracking experience. They don't yet have the experience I have as a driver and you can see the stress written on their faces. They want their licenses so badly, they want to have the freedom of being able to get from place to place by themselves. That tiny laminated piece of plastic is their ticket to freedom, their way of proving that they're on the path to being an adult. You can see the hope, the desire, the need in their eyes as they go to the DMV. They clutch their Ohio Driver's Handbooks with white knuckles, trying hard to retain everything they learned in Driver's Ed.

Things have changed since I was last there; now there's a testing area with computers set up. Back in the olden days, we had a pencil and a hard copy of the test. For me, taking a test at a computer terminal isn't as stressful. It's a familiar place for me and so aside from getting mixed up over school buses, I passed with flying colours. I missed one of those questions that has two potentially correct answers and I picked the wrong one.

I don't think some of the teens were lucky. I saw one girl, eyes red from crying coming out the same time as me, clearly license-less. I feel bad for her. She can retake the test, obviously but aside from the lack of license, she also has to tell her friends that she can't drive without her parents yet. That's quite traumatizing at her age, I remember that. That's one of the reasons the DMV is scary.

For me, the DMV is turning into a stress-filled place due to the fact I never get what I want the first time I go. Nevertheless, at least I know why now. Let's just hope my former insurance agent gets his act together and can prove that eight years ago, I was insured.

If he can, there will be another DMV trip in my future. Let's hope this one goes well. You know I'll keep you posted.

Happy Monday.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Just One of Those Weeks....

It's seemed to be a very long week. I think it might have gone by faster if I'd have been truly engaged at work but I'm feeling rather disgruntled lately and there's nothing easier than job frustration to make the week go slowly.

It's been one of those kind of weeks in general. Nothing has gone exactly according to plan. For example, we're having a barbecue at work today to welcome the new person who started on Monday. Now, I think it's nice that we're welcoming her but we have another new person starting next Monday and I can't help but wonder if we'll have to have another next week. We'll see.

Anyway, my contribution to the barbecue is guacamole and salsa verde. I think I make a pretty decent guacamole and I think the salsa verde is pretty good too although I did just hear a couple of coworkers look in the fridge and say, "Uh, what's that?" Salsa Verde literally salsa. They lowered their voices after that so I have no idea what their judgment of it is so far. It might be better if they actually try it first. Still....I recognize I'm feeling a little cantankerous this morning so I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and hope they weren't dissing my food.

Back to my slightly-off week. Last night, I had to make both of my barbecue contributions. I'd gone on Wednesday to Jungle Jim's to get the ingredients because they had avocados on sale. I'd also stopped at the farmer's market on the way home last night to get some more tomatillos since they're cheaper there than in the store and usually fresher.

When I started opening the husks of the farmer's market tomatillos, I realized half of them had worm holes in them and/or were rotten. This did not make me happy. I ended up substituting some yellow tomatoes I'd bought in place of them which meant rebalancing the salsa was necessary. Yes, I'm aware I sound like a Food Network Junkie using words like 'rebalancing' but, well, let's face it...I am. I also now watch Top Chef: Las Vegas. Which means I'm truly a food nerd. I'm ok with it. I just had to type that out loud.

Rebalancing the salsa verde meant adding some ingredients that I normally don't add like lime juice. Fortunately, I had extra left from the guacamole. I was a little worried that it would end up very verde because of the yellow tomatoes but, thankfully, by the time I'd added the cilantro and jalapenos, it was green again. Phew. I ate some for dinner which meant it is, at least, edible.

Onto the guacamole. I had pre-chopped by garlic and onions because I'd also used them in the salsa. It's nice when you have projects that share ingredients. It means extra chopping but it's still a time saver to chop double and then divide it between prep bowls, one for each 'dish'.

Yes, I said prep bowls. I own prep bowls and I use 'em. Given that a year ago I didn't really understand the concept of owning a good knife, you can see why I feel like it's such a dramatic life changer to discover that cooking is fun.

I had bought three avocados at Jungle Jim's: Two hass avocados and one giant Florida one. I bought the hass because they tend to be more flavourful even though they're smaller. Sadly, I discovered I'd wasted my money when I cut into them. When I'd picked them, I'd gone for two that felt nice and ripe. I like them when they're a little soft because it makes them easy to scoop. Once I'd sliced them in half, I realized that they were black with rot. I ended up using only the Florida one. I probably should have taken them back to the store but the time and effort that would have taken was just something I didn't have the energy for last night. Needless to say, I ended up with half the amount of guacamole I'd intended.

I know, I know...I'm complaining about minor little things. I'm grateful that it's all I have to complain about. My job is mind-numbingly dull but at least I have a job. Two conversations with my boss about how I'd like more work to do have resulted coworker getting more work and me just doing the same old thing, day after day. I suppose this means I'm good at the task I do but given that my last job at USC was about three jobs rolled into one, it's a little hard to realize that this is where I've ended up. Like I told my mother yesterday, I compare to the days of being in high school. I liked school: I was a nerd. I didn't even mind some homework. Yet there were some homework subjects I didn't like because they were boring and dull like Maths. I didn't mind Maths because until I got to Calculus and Geometry, it made sense. Yet I'd much rather do my English homework because it was interesting and used the part of my brain that works best. My job is like only ever having Math homework. I can do it but I feel like the other part of my brain is wasted.

Which is probably why I should be writing in the evenings. I'm trying to but things keep getting in the way. I've had editing to do for a friend, papers to assist with for another friend and then there's the whole owning-a-home thing. It seems like every evening, there's something that needs to be done, mowing, vacuuming, laundry...I keep hoping to find my balance again so that I can start working these into a routine but I still don't feel like I've actually grasped the fact that it's my house. Every time I do something there, I feel like I should get permission from someone. For example, I ripped up some geraniums that seem to be everywhere in my garden to make way for my culinary herbs. I felt a little bad about it since they were the old lady who lived there before me's geraniums. Then I realized...technically they were my geraniums now.

So, really, today all I'm doing is having a moan because life feels a little overwhelming at the moment. In the grand scheme of things, I know I'm very, very lucky to have such silly little things to whine about like rotten fruit and a boring job. It's just that sometimes even the silly little things make us feel crotchety and ragged. I'm just glad it's the weekend.

I just talked to a coworker who is having the same kind of day. She forgot the stuff at home that she'd made for the barbecue.

It's going to be that kind of day.

Happy Friday.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Reflections of Las Vegas...

I might still be asleep as I type this. I feel sort of like I'm in a haze, as though I never really woke up. I mean, technically, I know I have to be awake since I drove to work but since so many of us manage to often get from point A to point B without really knowing how as we drive, it's not unusual to completely zone out on the way.

I hate feeling this groggy. It's mornings like this where staying in bed seems so appealing. It's been cooler this week and the night air is managing to make for good sleeping weather. Of course, it might be the fact that I missed a full night's sleep on Saturday and I'm still catching up. That's what I get for going to Las Vegas.

The thing with Vegas is that it's easy to not sleep there. The Strip is intended for all-nighters, people stumbling from casino to casino, drinks in hand. It's a place for club-goers, the women dressed up in clothes that look like they came from Frederick's of Hollywood, the men trying to look spiffy in suits but somehow looking a little too much like used-car salesmen. Don't get me wrong, there is some elegance in Las Vegas, I just didn't see much of it.

I know that when you go to a club as a female, you're supposed to dress trendily, show some of your skin. It's what you do. That's why most club dresses are short enough that you can almost see the wearer's underwear. Me, personally...I've never been a fan of clubbing. I don't like that intense pulse of the music in the thick air where you have to yell to make yourself heard. Clubs are places to go and dance, to meet people.

I prefer concerts where there's room to move. You go there for the music; it's not just the background. You can also dress low-key and no one cares because they're there for the music too.

But clubs are a different story. Vegas is full of them. Most of the high-end ones are in the glitzy casinos like Bellagio, Caesar's Palace, Mandalay Bay and The Wynn. These are the places you hear about in the media where the likes of Lindsay Lohan and other burned-out young Hollywood goes to party. I'm sure there's a point but it's not something I care enough about to explore. I do enjoy watching the people dress up, however.

My trip to Vegas was a whirlwind. I did manage to do a 'restaurant tour' though. Or, perhaps I should say a, um, 'Window-Shopping Restaurant Tour.' At the indulgence of my good friend, I got to peer in the windows of the restaurants of Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, Kerry Simon and Todd English. I did, however, get to sample the wares of Francois Payard, one of the world's best pastry chefs.

I have to say, there's a reason Francois Payard is considered one of the best pastry chefs. We sampled a couple of croissants while we were there and I got a truffle to take home with me. The truffle? Best I ever had. It wasn't too rich, it was just perfect. I'm spoiled now: No truffle will ever taste the same.

While we didn't eat at any of the restaurants on my tour, we did eat at Le Villages Buffet in the Paris Casino. This is by far my favourite. It has stations set up to represent the regions of France and it has a champagne brunch on the weekends. When I go there, my favourite thing is the crusty baguette pieces, the cheeses, smoked salmon and the accompaniments like cornichons, olives, and capers. That's usually my first plate. The second plate is usually experimental. This time, I finally tried ratatouille. I had to get over the prejudice I had because of the silly rat movie. I have to confess, it was delicious. As long as I don't find out a rat is cooking it, I have a feeling it could become a favourite. I also tried some other things I normally don't eat, things that were decidedly French. Overall, if you're going to Vegas, it's a splurge to go there but, really, for $24, champagne and beverages inclusive, it's pretty good for all-you-can-eat at a buffet.

We also managed to eat at what is considered to be one of the best Thai restaurants in the States: Lotus of Siam. It really was the best Thai I ever had. I'm a huge fan of Tom Yum Kai, the spicy-sweet chicken soup with lemongrass and other Thai flavours and I have to say, theirs was the best. Same goes for the pad-see-ew that we ordered. I prefer that to Pad Thai. We also tried curry.

By the time we left, we were so stuffed full, it was ridiculous. We ended up heading to a part of Vegas I'd never seen before: The Fremont Street Experience.

I have to say the 'Experience' itself was a wee bit lame. I think a few years ago, it would have been cooler. Essentially, it's a canopy where they do light shows to music. Back before it was videos playing, it probably was something to see. As it stands now, you're basically just watching a video above your head. Sort of like an uncomfortable IMAX experience.

Still, the street itself is something to behold. It's Vegas at it's tired best. The glitz and high-end glamour of the Strip hasn't spread here. Instead, it's old-school Vegas with worn-down casinos and neon lights that sing a song of the days of the Rat Pack. There are tourist stores galore here. The casinos like The Golden Nugget are old and tired. Some of them even still use coins and buckets to catch them. Most of the newer casinos are all digital and give out a redemption ticket instead of coins.

You can still get yard-long drinks here but they're a little pricier than on the strip. There are less young people stumbling along, trying to remember where they're staying because they're lost in the fuzzy world of being drunk. It's an older crowd down on Fremont Street, a little more local and a little less frenetic. It's a fun place to go if you want a break from the intensity of the Strip. I'm glad I went. Not only did I see a new part of Vegas but I got to put nickels into a slot machine. I hate nickels.

The highlight of my trip was, of course, the Green Day concert. For those that know me, you know I'm a huge fan of the band. I've seen them several times in concert and I've never ever been disappointed. This is a band that knows how to engage an audience. They call kids up to sing and they pull a guitarist out of the audience to play with them. It's fun to watch someone's dreams come true. This was one of the best shows I've seen them do; they played many old hits as well as new. It gave my trip to Vegas a focus, a memory that I'll keep with me for life.

This weekend, I'm not doing anything as fancy as going to Vegas. In fact, for a long time, I hope not to do anything that fancy. While it was a great time, it was also exhausting. I need to be a homebody for a while, spend some time with my new house, figuring out what I can afford to do and what I want to focus on in the future. I need to have life calm down for a while now, no more Comic-Con, no more Vegas, no more adventures for a while.

Of course, I do have to go to the DMV this weekend. That's always an adventure. Better catch on sleep first though.

Happy Thursday.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

No Substitute for Bad Food When it Comes to Good Taste

Today is a bagel day in the office. We have those sporadically and they're rather unpredictable. Bagels either just mysteriously appear in the break room or we have these slightly weird gatherings to welcome new employees. The reason the gatherings are slightly weird is because we're summoned to the conference room by our president or vice-president with very little notice. Then we go sit in the conference room and end up chatting amongst ourselves. The new person sits there awkwardly, trying to talk to people around him or her. We all wait for the president to introduce the new person, to welcome them. It never happens. Eventually after we chat and get loud and eat our bagel, we're told to 'get back to work' and we all leave, wondering, exactly, what the point of that was aside from having a bagel.

Either way, we often have bagels. I'm not a huge bagel fan. Most mornings when I'm at home and can eat breakfast, I don't because I don't like to eat as soon as I get up. I have to wait a while. Sometimes I bring fruit so I can eat when I get to work. Yet, on mornings like this where I wasn't hungry when I left home but am ravenous by the time I get to work, they're a good way to stop my tummy from growling.

I suppose I should worry about calories. Bagels aren't exactly good for you especially when you load them with regular cream cheese. Usually, if I have the choice, I will opt for light. Cream cheese is one of those things that I'm not that picky about. It's tasty but unless it has chives in it, isn't something I really seek out other than to just take away the dryness of the bagel away.

There are some tastes that I'm just not fussy enough about to care that it's a 'light' product. Salad dressing is one of them. I tend to like the lower fat dressings.

However, maybe it's my new found love of cooking but I am recently realizing that there are some things that just shouldn't be compromised for 'diet' purposes.

I suppose it's easy for me to say that; I was born with a good metabolism. Until recent years, I could eat almost anything and not gain any weight. As I've got older, my metabolism has slowed and I do have to watch what I eat. I weigh more now than I've ever weighed and while sometimes I wish I was still skinny as a rake, it's really not that bad to have a few more curves. It's taken me a while but I'm beginning to accept it.

Of course, my newfound addiction to the Food Network is probably to blame for some of those curves but, also, for the fact that I am beginning to not mind that I'm not so skinny anymore. The thing that I am learning is that there needs to be a balance between deprivation and over-indulgence. There are just some things that I think life is too short to not eat.

I have a coworker who is constantly on a diet. Over the years, it seems, I've always had one coworker like this. It doesn't matter if it's WeightWatchers, Low Carb, Protein Diet, Fat-Free, SlimFast...there's always one of them.

I salute these current and former coworkers. Diets are hard to stick to but these die-hard dieters manage. Unfortunately, it many cases, they're the types who like everyone around them to know they're on a diet and they make remarks to the rest of us about what they're eating so that we're supposed to feel slightly guilty that we too aren't depriving ourselves.

Don't get me wrong, there are times when I get on kicks where I try to be healthy. It's not a diet per se but I watch my calories and I'm careful not to go overboard on anything that's bad for me. However, for the most part, I'm lucky enough to enjoy healthy food. I'm a vegetable lover. Many of my 'creations' in the kitchen are centred around vegetables. I enjoy some meat too so I don't think I could ever go vegetarian. Yet because I like vegetables, it helps me eat healthily.

I think, as my good friend over at RadLinc Crafts said, I've become a Foodie.

Foodies are people who...enjoy food. They love to eat good food, they care about ingredients and I think it's fair to say they don't compromise for taste. If a fat-free product will detract from the flavour and/or preparation of a dish, it won't be used.

I watched an episode of Iron Chef America last night. I noticed that there's never a pause from the chefs to stop and consider calories. They're making dishes based on taste. There is no compromise for taste. This is why they have the finest ingredients with which to cook. The judges are an assortment of Foodies and never once has a single one said, "I can't eat that. It's deep fried!"

And they deep fry a lot on Iron Chef. It's interesting; no matter what they deep fry, it seems gourmet. According to Alton Brown, the host of the show, deep frying is popular on the show because it's the quickest way to bring out flavour in food and given the hour time-frame the chefs have, they need quick methods of making food tasty. No longer does deep-frying seem like a crime because it makes things fat-laden and greasy but, instead, it's a way of cooking a side dish, a way of adding flavour.

What it really comes down to is moderation. There's a big difference between going to a fast food restaurant that deep fries everything to cooking a side of sage-filled potato rounds, ala Mario Batali. It's ironic really; you go to McDonalds and order a side of fries with your hamburger and you know you're committing a diet-crime. Yet, you go to a gourmet restaurant that serves pommes frites with your steak or "shoe string rosemary fried potatoes" and the guilt isn't there even though, technically, they're still cooked in a deep fryer.

That's where the moderation kicks in. If you eat everything deep-fried, yes, you're going to turn into a bad-skinned hippo-like creature. Yet if you're eating a balanced meal where the deep fried portion is only a small part of the meal, it's not so bad. I'm not saying it should be every meal either, just that if you're cooking to enjoy the taste of food, sometimes it seems a stop and pause and think "I can't cook that because it's bad for me!"

And again, there's a compromise to this too. There's no substitute for butter if you're making sage-butter sauce but there are 'light' butters out there that are still butter but not quite so bad for you. I admit, I use light butter sometimes just for the fact that it still is butter but it's also a nod to the fact that I know it's bad for my cholesterol. However, if I thought it detracted from the dish, I'd use real butter instead...I just wouldn't make the dish too often.

This is all just my personal philosphy; please keep that in mind. I have friends who diet who have lost a ton of weight and changed their lifestyles to be healthier. I definitely salute them while appreciating and admiring them. It takes a lot of discipline. Yet the thing I've noticed about my friends who have had the most success is that they don't completely deprive themselves of the things they love. They treat themselves once in a while; they're not fanatical about everything. They know what they should and shouldn't eat and every once in a while they 'cheat' with a chocolate bar or a small order of french fries.

In contrast, I've noticed that some of the coworkers I've had are fanatical. They won't eat a single thing that's not on their diet but allow themselves a 'cheat' day. This day usually entails eating about 3,500+ calories in one day.

I'm not judging but it seems like it would be better to more frequently give yourself a 'small' reward than binge like that.

Yet, again, it's not me. I'm hoping that my new "foodie" status doesn't mean that I'm going to have to consider going on a real diet in the future. It would be hard. There's just no substitute for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese or fresh baked bread.

Maybe I should watch the bagels though.

Happy Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Captain Monkeypants' Great Epiphany: Sponsored Flights

Today, I will not rant about United Airlines. I did enough of that yesterday. They also received a nice letter of complaint from me. One thing Captain Monkeypants likes to do is to write a strongly worded letter when something does not please her. This is why I've written letters to restaurants when they take things off their menus that I like or when I write to airlines if they irritate me with their crappy service. For the most part, it's mostly just a therapeutic way of dealing with things. I'm never rude, just...blunt and to the point.

I'll let you know how United responds. I've discovered in my Nightmare Travels that the usual way is to throw a voucher at me to try to get me to shut up. In this case, I don't think that's going to work. You see, a voucher would mean I'd have to use THEIR service and, well, given that I despise them with every part of my Monkeypants being at the moment, United Airlines isn't going to be a large part of my travel future.

If I was a better business woman, I'd start my own airline: Monkeypants Air. I had a novel idea after watching TV last night and seeing a commercial for the Glad Stick and Seal wrap stuff. They had everyone on an an aeroplane using it when they hit turbulance. Very useful stuff that, I'm a big fan myself.

I digress. Anyway, I started to think, wouldn't it be cool to have "Sponsored Flights?" I mean, seriously, if you're a company with a product that needs promotion, what better way to raise people's awareness than to trap them in a plane with you?

I'd use my own company's software as an example but we're a bit of a niche market. Also, despite my constant suggestions that we aim towards newer, younger clients who aren't on the verge of retirement, currently our company still seems to be continuing to cater to our somewhat curmudgeonly old-school clients. I'm not saying this is bad but, as a newcomer to the company, I can't help but wonder what happens when those people start retiring and their replacements are overwhelmed by our product. We provide training and consulting but, to me, it still seems like it'd be helpful to 'hold-the-hands' of new clients to lure them in and help them feel like we're not talking over their heads.

I digress. Again. So, let's not use my company. Let's use a company that we all may know...Subway Sandwiches.

Now, everyone knows Subway's doing ok. They're healthy, have great deals and can be found everywhere. They shouldn't need to promote much more than they do, right?

Except...I disagree. Sandwiches aren't terribly hard to make; the most they really require is a toaster oven to make 'em nice and hot and one of those oven things in which to bake the bread. They don't need to come with french fries; they can use potato chips (crisps is actually what I originally typed being a die-hard Brit and all but I realized I should probably gear this towards my U.S. readers since I do live here and all). My point is...there are a lot of competitors popping up to challenge Subway. Some of them are very good. Yes, Subway is healthy but other sandwich shops do offer tastier options that benefit from not being so healthy. They're also getting smart and offering five-dollar foot-longs, just like Subway. Subway even has acknowledged this and started their "Imitation is the highest form of flattery campaign." Smart.

But it still means they're constantly competing with Quiznos, Blimpie, Togos, Jimmy John's, Penns Station...whatever sandwich chain happens to be in your area. Although they rely on fresh ingredients, they're not as hard to set up as a fast food restaurant because of the lack of need for heavy cooking equipment. Thus, competititors are always cropping up, trying to oust Subway from our consciousness.

So my conclusion is that Subway would be a perfect candidate to 'sponsor' a flight. I'm not talking about putting logos on planes and making everyone have to buy Subway sandwiches if they want food. No, what I'm talking about is marketing. Think about it. You have planes full of people. They might have work to do, books to read, movies to watch but, chances are, they're going to be slightly bored, no matter what they have to do. While I enjoy reading a good book on a plane, I'd much rather be on the ground reading that book. I'd feel less trapped.

So, what if companies sent representatives on planes with us? They could conduct focus groups, give out samples, get feedback. Basically, they could have the opportunity to get everyone on that plane to want to eat at Subway every time they wanted a sandwich.

Given how much companies spend on advertising, it might actually be good for the passengers too. Companies could 'subsidize' flights, covering part of the cost of each ticket for passengers who would knowingly know they were on a 'sponsored' flight and agree to pay attention. I suppose it'd be a little like one of those time-share companies who woo customers in with free vacations in exchange for listening to their spiel.

Aside from lowering the cost of tickets, it would also be good for the airlines. If ticket costs lower and table out, people might actually CHOOSE the airline they fly based on the product being promoted rather than have to grab a flight because it was cheapest. We could even change air travel completely. First class passengers obviously wouldn't want a sponsored flight because it would be 'tacky'. We could convert planes/build new ones that are entirely first-class. That way everyone on that flight could walk on their stupid red-carpet and feel special while the rest of us can enjoy the fact that we are all equal: We all want our Subway Sandwich red carpets here. Only ones emblazened with the logo of the company sponsoring our flight.

The possibilities are endless. For example, if you're flying to a place that relies on tourism, such as Las Vegas, why not have them sponsor the flight? They could promote the city and make everyone more aware of what's on offer, not just the casinos but the Grand Canyon trips, the Hoover Dam trips, the restaurants, the'd be a way to get a trapped audience to learn more about what's on offer.

I know. I probably sound a little crazy. I'm just trying to find a way to make flights easier, better, fun for passengers. If a corporation, company, group, etc. sponsors a flight, it'd would make the airlines have to be more accountable for their actions. The company could help offer quality control in exchange for exclusive promotions.

It's just an idea. The way I look at it is that five years ago, we were outraged that they showed commercials before movies. Now we've come to the point where we still hate it but it's just part of the package. We're an adaptable species. If I can get a Subway Sandwich flight on Monkeypants Air that only costs me half the price of a regular ticket provided I give feedback and attention to the Subway rep for the portion of the flight they command, I'm there.

I probably sounds a little whacked out today. Truth be told, I had planned on blogging about Vegas and the Monkeypants Restaurant Tour (Exterior Only). However, I sat down and this is what came out. Um...yay?

On the plus side, this is on the internet now. It'll be date-stamped and officially 'published' by blogspot so if someone wants to steal my idea, they can go ahead. But I'll expect credit, thank you very much. Perhaps if it happens, I really can start my own airline.

Nah. Nice thought though.

Happy Tuesday.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Nightmares in Travel: United Airlines, Get some New Planes...

It's a Monday morning after a long weekend for me. I had a good time in Las Vegas but it's hard not to have one, especially when you get to see Green Day in concert and they were, as always, fantastic.

Yet, naturally, no trip is perfect and, given my previous grievances against the airlines and my previous travel issues , I guess it was too much to hope that I'd have a smooth trip back, isn't it?

When I booked my trip to Las Vegas, I paid a much, much higher price than I wanted to because there weren't many options. I did end up paying more so that I could leave early in the morning and get home mid-afternoon so that I could have a restful Sunday before I returned to work today.

I should have known better.

On Saturday night, my friend and I decided that there really wasn't too much point in going to bed as I had to be at the airport by 4 a.m. at which point, she could go to the hotel to sleep and I could get on the plane and sleep. So, we unwisely decided to just enjoy the ridiculous lights of Vegas and have fun. We did. By the time I got to the airport, I was tired and ready to sleep on the plane.

When I went to one of the computer check-in stations, I was informed that it would not provide my boarding pass. I had to go to the gate to get it. I wasn't sure why, considering I had booked and paid a lot for my ticket. I do understand when you do one of the super-cheap ticket-buying methods that the airline basically waits to assign a seat when it finds out what's available and this can happen after you've checked in. Yet it shouldn't be the case with regular ticket-buying methods.

Naturally, not having a boarding pass made security a little difficult considering they want to see the boarding pass. I ended up having to dig out my printed itinerary and show them my next flight's ticket- the Chicago to Dayton one. When I showed the TCA man this ticket, he gave me a funny look and said, "You're at the wrong airport" even though I had clearly shown him my itinerary. Finally, he said: "Ok, I'll let you go but you need a boarding pass." Yes, Mr. TCA, thank you for that enlightening piece of information. I tried to smile politely and not be rude because, after all, how was he to know this wasn't my first flight and that I might not know I need a boarding pass to get on a plane?

When I got to the gate, I had to wait for a ticket agent to appear. I waited a while. Finally, one came and I got up to retrieve my boarding pass. She asked my name, glanced at a piece of paper, and literally sniffed at me. "Sit down," she said. "I'll call you in a minute." She immediately turned to her co-ticket-desk-helper and started chatting. I did what I was told. Finally, after about 20 minutes, I was given a boarding pass.

Boarding actually was easy. I got on my plane. I dozed off immediately. I woke up a little while later to realize we weren't moving. We weren't flying. We were just sitting. We sat for a long time more before the pilot drove us back to the gate. We sat there a while. The plane was, apparently, having some kind of technical problem and they had to wait for a part. We waited. Finally, they made us get off the plane.

I was still tired. Yet, like so many other people, I was also a little concerned about my connecting flight and we were all directed to talk to the ticket agent. So, like a good passenger, I got in line even though I really wanted to go to the toilet and I was thirsty. Also, I was only semi-functional, due to sleep deprivation. I waited in line for almost an hour. Literally, as I got to the desk, they announced we were going to re-board again. Yay. So I asked the ticket counter lady where I'd been rebooked so I knew how much time I had once I got to Chicago before my next plane took off. Here's how the conversation went.

Captain Monkeypants: I know we're ready to board but I've been waiting in line. Can you at least tell me when my new connecting flight leaves.
United Airlines Lady: We're ready to board.
Captain Monkeypants: I know but I just waited in this line and I'd like to know.
United Airlines Lady: Sorry, but we're going to board you know.
Captain Monkeypants: So how do we know what's going on in Chicago?

At which point she promptly turned away from me and picked up the microphone thingy and made an announcement that the Chicago United Ticket Desk would help us. There was some irritated stirrings at that. It was quite obvious that this Las Vegas crew was done with us and they were passing the buck and basically telling us to get on the plane and shut up. When I asked again, she announced: "You can look at the monitors in Chicago or talk to a ticket agent to find out when your new connection leaves."

Congratulations, United. That has to be the laziest, most unenthusiastic way of helping your customers I've ever seen. Well done, Las Vegas staff. It's nice to know when things get rough, you pass the responsibility along and ignore us.

Meanwhile, I had to run to the bathroom and sprint back so I could get back on the plane because I'd spent my entire furlough in the airport waiting in a line for no reason.

When we got on the plane again, I was a little less exhausted than before and so I noticed things. When I had attempted to print my boarding pass, I had been asked if I wanted to upgrade to "Economy Plus" with more leg room. I didn't bother because it would have cost me an additional $49. I had fallen asleep the first time I boarded and woken up stiff. When I sat in my seat this time, I realized that in order to shove my backpack under the seat, I literally had to press my head against the seat in front of me because I seriously had just over a foot between me and that seat and that was the only way to get things out from under the seat and put them back again. It seems that United has decided to take away the normal amount of leg room and make it smaller to force people to upgrade if the space is too cramped.

I say this is crap. It's not fair. For the cost of the tickets, the baggage fees, the in-flight food, you'd think you'd at least get a seat where you could stretch your legs without your knees bumping the tray table. But nope. It had to be the most uncomfortable seat I ever had. The thing that worries me is now that they're charging you to be semi-comfortable, are they going to start charging to make it comfortable at all? I mean, what's next, they charge you for the cushions on the seats? Or is it going to be that you have to pay extra to sit at all- otherwise you have to stand up, get strapped to the sides and hold on for dear life. Of course, there's always the option of building planes that have seats like the flight-attendants use for landing/take-off, those hard plastic ones that lower and raise like a tray-table. I bet those are next.

We finally did take off. I discovered when I got to Chicago that I had been rebooked but I wasn't going to get home at the nice 2:30 p.m. time I had intended and scheduled. Instead, i was going to land about 6 p.m. I wasn't happy but it wasn't too late and I could deal with that.

Of course, that's before I sat down at my supposed gate only to find out they'd moved me. I trundled across the airport to sit at the new gate. I was on the phone to Mummy-Monkeypants when I heard the pilot come down from the loading bridge and mumble to the Ticket Desk Man. I heard the word "Maintenance" and my heart sank. I predicted a delay to Mummy-Monkeypants who was a saint throughout the day by listening to my United Airlines targeted rants.

Sure enough, we didn't board when we supposed to. This time, the ticket agent was actually nice about it though, perhaps, a little too cheerful. He had this huge grin the entire time. I'm glad he was happy. Apparently, our plane was broken and needed a new part. My first thought: "Um, United Airlines? What the hell is wrong with you that your planes are all broken?" We were told to hold tight.

This began Ticket Agent Man's first disappearance down the loading ramp where he disappeared. Meanwhile, a line had formed at the desk, awaiting his return. Twenty minutes later, he resurfaced. No news. We waited. And waited. Ticket Agent Man finally put an official delay on the screen. Meanwhile, he called a specific passenger to the desk and told him that his connection was getting tight. I thought this was really nice of them. At first. Ticket Agent Man decided to put this passenger on a direct flight to his final destination instead of him having to connect in Dayton with the rest of us cattle. That was nice. Except this marked disappearance number two of Ticket Agent Man. He had to figure out how to get this passenger's bags from our plane to his new one. It took him almost 20 minutes again to resurface. Meanwhile, we'd had no updates, we had no idea what was going on.

Finally, he reemerged and dealt with the passenger whose flight needed to be rebooked. This took an additional 15 minutes. While I think it's nice that he was so helpful to this passenger, the rest of us were getting frustrated because Ticket Agent Man was our only contact and he was ignoring the rest of us. The rebooked passenger left. Ticket Agent Man disappeared. Again.

He reemerged afted 10 minutes. It turned out they'd found the part for the plane! Hurrah! Except...they didn't know where the mechanic was. Which essentially told us nothing other than the fact that we still weren't going anywhere. While an update was necessary, methinks that Ticket Agent Man telling us that they were clueless as to what was really happening does NOT look good for United Airlines.

Finally, the part and the mechanic arrived. We knew this because Ticket Agent Man disappeared to go check. He came back 10 minutes later, still smiling. It would take ten minutes to fix! We'd board in about six minutes!

Twenty minutes later, we began to board. I landed at 7:40 p.m. I got home at almost 9 p.m.

Needless to say, I am still irked about the whole trip. It just seems that it's impossible to get from point A to point B anymore without this constant kind of problems. We, as passengers, have no say in what happens, we are left at the mercy of the airlines. They treat us rudely, as though it's our fault the plane is broken and refuse to help us. They take no responsibility. They expect people to have flexible time frames that will allow for delays and cancellations.

I understand that things happen, things out of the airlines' control. Yet it seems to be happening more and more. We're letting the airlines walk all over us. They're raising their prices, charging for EVERYTHING and treating us worse and worse.

I think we need Consumer Advocates on every flight. Someone designated to stand up for the economy passengers, the ones who don't get treated like royalty because we don't travel for business. We need someone to put the airlines to task, to make them answer for the fact that they cannot do their jobs properly. It's never anyone's fault, it seems. It's just the nature of airline travel.

But why is it the nature? Why do we get jerked around with little say while the airlines still make money? Why do their planes break just as you're about to take off. Shouldn't they, you know, CHECK THAT BEFORE WE GET ON THE PLANE??? Call me crazy but, really, shouldn't they check that before they have a gateload of passengers ready to board? I know they 'can't help it' but why is it that so many planes are experiencing mechanical failure? I know the economy sucks and airlines are fighting to make a profit but I can't help but think they might not be using their budgets wisely. I know they have to pay a lot more for fuel these days but so do we drivers. We manage. We budget for that. We also know to get our cars serviced when we can so they don't have mechanical 'failure' on a regular basis.

Here's a tip, United. Your planes seem prone to 'mechanical problems, so it seems like you should be used to getting them fixed. How's about you keep parts AT THE AIRPORTS instead of having them brought in from, I don't know, DOWNTOWN CHICAGO????

Sorry, I'm ranting now. I'm just fed up with airlines and the power they hold over us. They know we need them and they're exploiting us, slowly taking away our dignity and freedom so we're trapped in the little metal capsules, our knees up to our ears, debating on if we should pay $4 for a cookie because our stomach was growling and we didn't get time to eat because our connection was so tight we had to sprint.

Something needs to change. I'm not going to be flying for a while. I need a break. I shall be complaining to United. I expect nothing in return but it'll make me feel better. In the meantime, as passengers, we need to stand up and fight for our dignity. I intend to find a way to do it. I urge you to do it too. I may be just a little voice on a little blog but everything starts somewhere.

Happy Monday.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Las Vegas: A Food Network Junkie's Paradise...

Technically, today is my Friday since I'm flying to Las Vegas tonight and don't have to work tomorrow. Short work weeks are nice.

I'm excited about Las Vegas; it's a fun city to visit. I'm not a huge gambler, for the most part the most ambitious I get is playing up to nine cents a spin on the penny slots. Rarely, I will play a dollar in the 25 cent slots but usually once I spend a dollar with no profit, I usually slink back to my penny slots.

Ironically, though it's the city's best known pasttime, gambling is not the best thing about Vegas, not in my opinion.

Prior to my becoming a Food Network Obsessed Junkie, I used to enjoy the spectacle of the casinos a lot. As you walk down the strip, each casino is trying harder than the last to get you to come inside. From the fire-lit waters of Treasure Island after their evening spectacles to the traditionally engaging dancing waters of the Bellagio, you could spend an entire evening just going from free show to free show without gambling a penny.

Inside the casinos is another story. I find some of them slighly dizzying- Paris, for example. The inside of the casino has blue skies on the ceiling, as does Venice and though you know it's a casino, there's something bizarrely surreal about trying to pretend you're outside while you're actually inside a room filled with clanging, tinging, ringing, trilling slot machines.

Of course, now I'm a Food Network Junkie, I have a horrible feeling I'm going to feel differently about my priorities in Vegas. Being the new hot spot for celebrity chefs, there are restaurants galore there including efforts by Bobbie Flay, Mario Batali, Todd English and many other Food Network favourites. The last time I went with friends, a couple of them wanted to see the outside of Mesa, Bobbie Flay's restaurant in Caesar's palace. They didn't need to go in. They wanted to see it.

I thought they were a little strange. I couldn't figure out why you'd go look at a restaurant and not eat there.

I owe them an apology. I get it now and I hang my head in sheepish embarrassment. Having learned about the abrasive and arrogant charms of Bobby Flay and his talents with food...I understand.

I'd do the same for Mario Batali's restaurants in the Venice Casino.

Yes, I am aware I sound like a fruitcake.

The thing with Vegas is that there's too much good stuff to eat. Almost every casino offers a buffet ranging from the spectacular to the Sizzler-esqe-sadly-hopeful-but-failing-miserably attempts of the lower budget casinos. Restaurants like Flay's Mesa and Batali's Carnevino Italian Steakhouse and B & B Ristorante are expensive for the frugal traveler like myself. Don't get me wrong, I'd splurge in a heartbeat if I had the time and money. Yet this trip especially is two days long and I'm watching my wallet so if I'm going to spend $30 on a meal, I'm likely to go to a buffet. Now, if I knew Bobbie Flay or Mario Batali were going to personally cook for me, I'd reconsider.

I find it ironic that one of the main reasons that I'm going to Las Vegas is because Green Day are playing tomorrow night and I have tickets. Don't get me wrong, I can't wait for the Green Day concert. It'll be fantastic, I'm certain. Yet I do find it rather curious that I'm getting as excited about the Food Network-y ties of the city as I am about the concert.

Still, I'm sure regardless of if I get to peer longingly into the windows of any of the restaurants, I'm going to feel slightly dorky and slightly happy. Rather like when I went to Comic-con. For the longest time, I tried to pretend that I was just a little quirky. Over the years, the fact that I'm just a full on geek/nerd/peculiar person is just getting too hard to hide so... I'm embracing it. The beautiful thing is that the people who love me know I'm a dork and thus, they allow me to go with it. This is why I know that my good friend who I'm excited to meet in Vegas will indulge me should I feel the need to do a 'walk-by' of Mr. Batali's restaurants. Of course, she's very logical and I expect her to suggest that we go inside because that is what normal people do.

Me, I'm just happy to see it. But, then again, we've established....normal doesn't really live here, does it?

Happy Thursday.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Impulses of Rain and Morning Reflections on Lestat...

I'm giving up on weather reports. I've said similar things before but I think this time, it's time. I think even the Fox 19 weather man is giving up on trying to get it right and instead is concentrating on really pretty ways to say he doesn't know. We've supposedly supposed to have had three days of thunderstorms so far. So far, we've had three days of cloying humidity, beating-hot sun and puffy white clouds. I think it might have rained a little here where I work but where I live, there's been no rain.

Today, the weatherman said, "There might be little impulses of rain throughout the day depending on where you are."

I found this to be rather hilarious. First of all "Impulses of Rain" sounds like either an Indie rock band or an Oprah-esque novel. Second of all, to me, what it really sounded like he was saying was that it might rain. Somewhere. If it's not raining where I am, it might going to rain somewhere else.

I noticed on Monday, he was rather gung-ho about the storms, we were definitely going to get them. As the week is progressing, he's looking a little more dejected as though he can't believe he has to say the same thing when he knows that he's probably wrong.

I suppose I can't blame him. He's probably not doing his own meteorological reports. He's probably pulling them off the wire. So it's not his fault and I should probably feel sorry for him because he knows that he's probably wrong. It has to be hard on your self-esteem.

So, while I await for the pattern of thunderstorms I've been told to expect, I'm now currently squinting a little because the sun is now pouring in through my basement window. Sometimes, I feel a little like I'm below deck of a ship because we have this little glass blocks above us that are supposed to feel like windows but do little more than let us see if it's daylight or night. Unless it's the morning and then we sit for a short period of times, trying to ignore the glare as the sun rises up into the sky.

It's one of those days that needs a big storm. The humidity is out of control and it's making everyone feel sluggish and bad-tempered. I'm not just projecting. I think there's definitely something in the air on days like this that affects us as humans. The pressure builds in the atmosphere and we feel it.

I know I'm trying to fight the urge to be snappy and irritable. I'm not the only one; I've noticed my coworkers feeling the same way. It's silly, for me, the things that seem to put me in a bad mood. On my way to work this morning, I passed by a gas station and as I did so, a car decided to pull out and cut me off, forcing me to slam on my brakes. Not only did she cut me off and scare the crap out of me, she decided she didn't like the fact that I had to tailgate her as a result of her sudden movement and rather than speed up, she chose to drive at 25 miles an hour until I pulled back.

I confess, when people tailgate me, this is the exact same thing I do. I slow right down and irritate them to the point that they sheepishly give me some space. It works almost all of the time. Then I accelerate back up to a good, sensible law-abiding speed. They can either pass or follow suit.

However, with the girl this morning, it wasn't like I had any choice! She cut me off with such a short amount of space that by the time I'd braked, I was a little too close to her for comfort.

I'm hoping this is just a bad week for commuting, not a sign of things to come. Next week, the kids around here start back up with school which means the added bonus of morning school buses. I'm not sure if that will affect me but, if it does, you'll hear about it.

I think the reason I get so frustrated with bad drivers in the mornings is that, as I've mentioned, my commute is my meditation time, my time to just relax, reflect and enjoy the beautiful country. I like it to be a reliable thing. With bad drivers factored in, my reflection time is considerably reduced. I don't like that.

Still, I better get used to it. At least this morning, until I got cut off, I did get to reflect. Sadly, my thoughts were not terribly deep, they were, actually, rather shallow and dumb. You see, yesterday, I heard that, in the wake of the current vampire trend, Hollywood is now considering reviving Anne Rice's greatest vampire creation: The Vampire Lestat.

As I mentioned in several prior blogs, I hold Anne Rice up to be one of the best vampire writers out there, at least in her earlier books. She was an original creator of the romantic vampire, the sexy, 'rockstar' vampire, the brooding vampire. Without Anne Rice, we'd have no Buffy the Vampire Slayer, no Twilight and no Sookie Stackhouse novels.

The problem I have is that Hollywood doesn't seem to 'get' Lestat. This was clear when they cast Tom Cruise in Interview with the Vampire. While I think Tom Cruise tried really hard he....wasn't Lestat. Hollywood tried again with Queen of the Damned, casting a more unknown actor, Stuart Townsend, as Lestat. He was closer but the film was so terrible, it wasn't worth watching.'s Robert Downey Jr. who has seems to be wanting to play the character. I love Robert Downey Jr. I think he's an amazing actor. I've liked him for many years, from his earliest roles in Less than Zero to his recent comeback as one of Hollywood's best. I still think one of my favourite roles of his was in Heart and Souls, a cute romantic comedy that still makes me smile. He was good in such formulaic crap as Only You. He was good in Natural Born Killers. He's just a good actor.

Recently, I've been excited to see him play roles like Tony Stark in Iron Man. It suits him and he's fun to watch.

But...I think it's safe to say, dear Robert, back away from Lestat. Back away.

You see, Lestat is immortal because, well, duh, he's a vampire. He's also written to be devilishly handsome with a side of sociopathy. He's also...quite young.

Robert Downey Jr. is not as young. That's why he's as good as he is. I love him as Tony Stark, the rich, attractive business man with a world-weary streak and a penchant towards alcoholism. I think he's going to make an excellent Sherlock Holmes, his dry with and deadpan humour perfect for the role.

But...Lestat? Really? I think, Mr. Downey Jr. that maybe it's time to take a step back. We know you're the hottest actor in Hollywood right now. We know you're very talented and are picking great roles but I think this time, you can take a pass.

I just can't see Lestat being in his forties. It just doesn't work for me. The closest I've ever seen to the Lestat I pictured in the books is Eric from True Blood. Eric is very Lestat-ian. He's ruthless, sexy, cruel and funny. But...I like him as Eric. I'm just saying that I think he's the closest the screen has come to getting Lestat right and he's not even playing Lestat.

So, perhaps you can see why the Robert Downey Jr. picture in my mind as Lestat is a wee bit...ridiculous. I'd like to be convinced otherwise but I'm rather afraid that once again, the attempt to bring Anne Rice's novels to life is going to fall a little flat in the attempt to make it a big Hollywood attempt.

Wow...I'm rambly today. I apologize, once more. As I've said, sometimes when I sit down to blog, I don't always know what I'm going to say. Today, it rather got away from me. That's what happens when I don't get smooth morning reflection time. Here's to tomorrow and hoping for an easier commute.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Stuck in the Slow lane....

I left for work early twenty minutes early today since I have to to the eye doctor tonight and leave work a little early to do so. Unfortunately, I still only managed to arrive at work five minutes early due to the fact that I got stuck in a parade of cars.

My commute to work is a little tricky; the first part is easy, there's an interstate that offers plenty of options to change lanes and move at the speed you like. The second part is harder; it's a two lane highway full of hills and curves with absolutely no way to pass.

I usually don't need to pass. There are occasions when I get stuck behind a slow driver but when I say slow, I mean someone doing the posted speed limit of 45 mph. I tend to like to go about 55 mph. I mean, that's not exactly fast- it's normal. It's not an unsafe road but I think the 45 mph limit is set because it is a little hilly. Nevertheless, though I get slighly irritated at having to go the speed limit, I live with it.

Today, however, I got behind one of those drivers. You know the type I mean, someone you can tell does not like to drive and doesn't do it very often. At first, I thought it was a little old lady based on the way she was driving but some time later, I discovered it was a young woman.

I tried to be patient. I don't like to tailgate and though she was going 35 mph, I tried to keep a safe distance. Unfortunately, she was a braker. Every now and again for no reason whatsoever, she'd put on her brakes. I'd have to brake, the person behind me had to brake, the person behind them...and so on.

I didn't mind at first but as I'm on the highway for over 20 miles, you can imagine how frustrating it is to be stuck behind a driver like this. Unfortunately, I wasn't the only one. I was directly behind the 'leader of the parade', second in line. Behind me, no exaggeration, there were at least 15 other cars, all positioned a car's length away from one another, all victims of The Slow Driver.

We were like that for 20 miles. I was a little irritated after about ten of those miles. I'm never the most patient driver. I'm not Ms. Speedy by any means but I'm a firm believer in at least going the speed limit, if not five miles over. I'm also a firm believer that if you are uncertain about driving or are out for a slow-paced joyride, you should NEVER choose to do it during the heavy morning commute time. It's just plain rude. It wasn't only me; I'd venture to guess that at least 90% of the cars were on their way to work and, as a result of Ms. Slow, we were all thrown off schedule.

I know, I know...I'm probably being unfair. It wasn't her fault; it's never a bad thing to be precautious. It's just infuriating when you really need to get to work and you can't. There is no way to get around her. I suppose my line of thinking if you're driving and you look back and realize you are leading a parade of cars that snakes up the hills behind you, you might do the right thing and pull over to let them pass. Farm equipment drivers will always do this. I suppose if you're already a nervous driver, you probably wouldn't know that it's ok to do that. Let me tell is!

Again, I know I'm being unfairly impatient. Maybe she was a driver who hates driving and it was her first trip away from her local neighbourhood in months. Maybe she had a job interview and she was practicing. Maybe her little Kia Rio was unable to go above 35 mph. Who knows why she was driving so...cautiously? All I know is that she thwarted my intentions of a nice early arrival in the office and that does not make me happy. Now I shall have to skip lunch instead of going to the post office. I love going to the post office. I know I've mentioned that. I was going to mail some letters and buy stamps. Now i shall have to wait until tomorrow. That makes me sad.

It's ok though. The post office will be there tomorrow. I shall try again.

I did manage to get by the Ms. Slow right as I got into the town where I work. I saw her intention of going straight and so I turned, gaining an extra five minutes back by cutting through town the way only a 'local' knows how. That's the advantage to having lived here for a while; I know the short cuts.

Ironically, as I went to make my final left turn that took me to work, I glanced down the road. In the distance, a pair of headlights was bobbing moving slowly down the road. It was leading a parade of cars.

Happy Tuesday.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday Musings

Weekends go by way too quickly. Somehow, I left my office on Friday and passed through a time warp because here I am again on Monday morning, feeling as though I didn't have a weekend even though I did and it was good.

Still, I shouldn't complain too much. This morning, on the way out of my neighbourhood, I saw a line of sleepy, grumpy looking kids waiting for the school bus. I might not be happy about coming to work after a nice weekend but at least I'm not coming back after three months away like those kids. I always hated the first weeks back. For some reason, I thought that because we were back in school, summer was over. However, the nasty, sticky, humidity of August/September betrayed my beliefs. School, to me, was supposed to be beginning of Autumn and I'd wait for the leaves to start changing, a crispness to slowly emerge in the night air. It never happened that way and at the end of the school day, we'd emerge from the chilly over-airconditioned building and be hit with that wall of stickiness that told me that it really was still summer.

I don't know how those kids that I saw this morning feeling but I can tell you that I didn't see any of them doing a dance of joy or for that matter, even looking slightly happy. They looked weary, tired, apprehensive and just plain annoyed.

Me, I was just sleepy this morning as I left for work. My weekend was great but it was tiring. I went to a Herb Festival in Wabash, Indiana this weekend. I love things like that. When I moved back to the Midwest, I promised myself that I'd try to do more things like that, local activities that salute the charm of the area.

The Herb Festival was a lot of fun. Having just planted my herb garden and being a big fan of herbs in general, it seemed like a perfect time to go. I went with my mother and we had a lovely time walking around, exploring all the booths, talking each other into making purchases and just enjoying the fact that it was a beautiful, not too hot day. I left with a new pot of sage, a little 'pesto garden' and some assorted spices for cooking.

After that, I got to do a more nervewracking my mother my house for the first time since I moved in. She came to stay with me on Saturday and I was a little nervous. I'm a firm believer that no matter how old we get, we're still going to feel like we need our parent's approval in everything we do, even subconsciously. So, I was a little nervous to show her my furnished and decorated abode.

Fortunately, she seemed to like it. I like it too. Those frustrating cranberry walls actually look pretty good with my furniture and the paintings I've hung. My grass was fairly recently mowed so the back yard looked pretty decent. Of course, my mother being an avid and talented gardener, zeroed in on my lovely weed collection but she did grant me forbearance because I have, after all, just moved in and do have other things to do.

My sister, niece and brother-in-law came down on Sunday to see my new house and visit Jungle Jim's. My niece is three. She is just the greatest little kid and I enjoy getting to spend time with her. She has a lot of energy though and by the time she left, I had to admire my sister and brother-in-law for being able to deal with her every day. She has a very good imagination and at the moment, she's carrying an the palm of her hand called "Baby Wendy." Unfortunately, as she's the only one who can see Baby Wendy, it leads to all sorts of problems. Her mother apparently isn't very nice to Baby Wendy because she accidentally shut her in the pantry the other night. I believe she's also stepped on Baby Wendy a few times.

Baby Wendy aside, it's fun to spend time with my family like that. It was so nice to be able to show them my new house and go to Jungle Jim's with them. When they left, my house was quiet and slightly lonely.

Now the weekend is over, it's time to look ahead to the week. It's actually a short week for me; my plans to go to Las Vegas finally came together and I'll be flying out Thursday night. It should be a fun trip, if a little brief. Then again, while I enjoy the glitz and tackiness of Vegas, two days is probably enough. I haven't checked the weather yet but given that Vegas is in the middle of the desert, this time of year, it's pretty much an inferno of heat only differentiated by the reading on the thermometer. Once it gets that hot, the thermometer reading doesn't really matter- it's more a question of whether it's tolerable to be outside or if you should plan your down the strip by winding your way through the casinos, venturing outside only to cross to the next casino.

Thus, it's going to be a busy week. It seems to be that life is busier lately for me than it's been for a while. When I get back from this trip, I'm putting a moratorium on traveling for a while. I need to get more settled in my house, I need to take charge of being a homeowner instead of coasting off the novelty of being able to dabble around with a little of this and a little of that. I need to figure out what I want to do to the house, to the garden. I need to finish unpacking.

However, for now, the week lies ahead, the berth between now and the next weekend the widest it will be all week. On the plus side, at least I'm not going back to school like those kids I passed this morning. It might be a Monday but for us non-school goers, it's just another Monday. For those kids, it's as though the reins of freedom have been taken away and a clamp of obligation clamped on their leg instead. They're probably already counting down to Labour Day, their first long weekend.

Then again, I'm also counting down to Labour Day. So maybe there's not quite so much difference after all.

Happy Monday.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Back to School is More Fun When You Don't Actually Have to Go to School....

This week seems to have gone quite fast- at least for me. I have a feeling it probably it went fast for a lot of people, especially the generations younger than me.

It's that time of year again: Back to School time. I remember the days well, a heavy weight in my stomach as I realized that not only was the blissful freedom of long, lazy summer days over but it also meant starting over. It got a little easier towards the end of high school but before that, it would always be a stressful time. I was a nerdy student, one who actually cared about school so I would worry about what classes I'd have to take and who my teachers were. I'd worry about who was going to be in my classes. It would inevitably result in a phone call or two to my friends and we'd pore over our schedules, checking to see which classes we shared.

The one thing I did enjoy was the back-to-school shopping. The clothes part was ok though I never strived to be very trendy- it was pointless. Even to this day, I consider myself to avoid fashion. I like to think of myself as a timeless dresser, wearing the basics that never go out of style but making sure the height of my waistband and the heels of my shoes are not out-of-date. That's as far as I go to make sure I'm fashionable and that's only because I don't want to be the woman 'stuck in the '80's'. I find that to be a rather shocking time, especially as the fashions are making a comeback. Compared to the low waistband of jeans today, the fashions in my youth made us look like ninety year-old grandmothers with our trousers up to the middle of the chests. I did used to wear trends when I was much younger: Yes, I owned legwarmers, stirrup pants and long blouses with a belt around the middle. I've seen those fashions in the pages of Glamour and Entertainment Weekly again recently and I'm a little scared. Didn't we warn the youth of today how NOT to dress? I mean, just look back at the feathered hair, stiff with hairspray, baggy tops with skinny leggings and ankle boots with our leggings. Wasn't that enough to STOP the trends from coming back?

I don't mind being a child of the 1980's, actually. I think "Fame" was probably better the first time than it's going to be in remake and the same with "Footloose" and "Nightmare on Elm Street". I mean, there's just something delightful in watching Kevin Bacon dance his little heart out in an abandoned warehouse and say things like "Jump Back" that's just not going to be captured in the remake. We were a lot more innocent back then, I think.

I digress. I was talking about back-to-school shopping so I probably should get back to that.

The part I did like was when we moved to the U.S. and we had to get 'school supplies.' In the UK, we had most of our stuff given to us; as children it was a special day when we were allowed to write in ink rather than with our pencils. When our pen died, we'd have to go to our teacher and ask for a new one. We'd try all manner of things to get a new pen, chewing off the caps, making the tips wet so they didn't work and losing them. Most of the time we got a new one. We had glue and coloured pencils provided to the class so we shared them as a community. If we needed paint, it was there. When we got older and went to 'senior school', we had to bring our own pens and pencils but we were still given notebooks to write in and textbooks from the storage closet. We didn't use much glue then though in art class, we still had our paint provided to us.

So, when we moved here and my younger siblings had 'school supply lists', we were mystified. What was this "Trapper Keeper" thing? Why did they need two-pocket folders? Why were spiral notebooks not allowed? What, exactly, was a spiral notebook? Our notebooks in England had been paperback journals with floppy covers and a place to print our names, class number and year. Why did they have to buy two kinds of glue?

After a couple of years, it became entirely natural for us to go to K-Mart and buy the stuff we needed. The older we were, the less complicated the supplies that were necessary. In high school, we just had to have notebooks for each class and writing implements. Anything else was our choice.

I admit, I liked buying school supplies. I love the feel of a new pencil, a pen that has not yet written anything. I loved to buy my two-pocket folders for each class with a matching notebook, colour-coordinated so I could pair them together easily as I grabbed them from my locker between classes. I would love the feel of that new bag or backpack, crisp and unfamiliar with its pockets and hiding places.

To this day, I feel a rush of happiness when I go to Office Depot or Staples. I love that 'new pencil' smell. Ironically, even though as a child I was very excited when I got to write in pen, I prefer pencils. I love to sharpen them and I love their flexibility. Pencils allow you to be indecisive, they allow you to change your mind with a simple sweep of the eraser. Erasable pens are just not the same.

Nowadays, the "Back to School" period in shops is fun, I don't have the gloom that I see in the kids who know that they're having to go back to structure, to getting up early to get on the bus. I get the low prices without the inconvenience of having to go to school.

Of course, most of the time, I do only visit the 'back to school' sections at strange hours. Late at night or early morning is best. Otherwise, the once-peaceful aisles become zoos with irate parent's snapping at their kids for wanting the folders with the Twilight actors on them that cost $1.49 each instead of the plain folders that are currently six for a dollar. The back-to-schoolers turn nice orderly stores into chaos, leaving nothing but a trail of rubble in their wake. These are the times when you find the strangest things in the strangest places when people change their minds and refuse to reshelve. I accidentally went to Walmart a couple of years back during the prime 'back to school' time. To this day, I have never done it again. It was terrifying; almost worse than the day after Thanksgiving. There was no quiet place in the store and I got hit and cajoled by more shopping carts than I can even count. As a non-parent with no kids in tow, I felt as though I was commiting a crime by trying to reach for the 10 cent spiral notebooks.

I do like those bargains though which is why I still visit Walmart and Target during this time of year. Mostly I do it on Sunday mornings when they first open or late in the evenings when the tired parents have trundled home after a hard day of back-to-school shopping. One of my favourite television commercials is the one for, I think, Staples where the Christmas Song, "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" plays and the father dances with glee down the aisles, his children watching with misery and gloom. Now I have friends who are parents, I get the other side of back-to-school. While the kids are losing their freedom, the parents are gaining a little of theirs back. It's a different perspective nowadays for me.

But it's a fun one.

Happy Friday and have a good weekend.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bunnies Make Everything Better, Even Mowing the Lawn

Let me start by saying that I feel like my post yesterday came across as a little too harsh, almost as though were judging my Midwestern peers and coming out sounding mean. When I wrote the blog, I tried hard to present it strictly from my point of view, rather than a factual analysis of the way people really are. Also, perhaps some of it is my fault, perhaps I should attempt to make friends in other ways than work. It's something I'll give some thought to once I feel like I've settled in from moving to a new house. It's a hard thing though to balance a full time job and trying to be a writer. Sometimes I feel hypocritical saying I'm lonely when, truly, my passion in life, writing, means loneliness might be inevitable.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that if I've offended people with my slightly skewered viewpoint, I apologize.

Moving on, it's Thursday. I'm glad for that. The week itself has flown by in some ways; work has kept me busy and life at home has also been busy.

Last night, I had to mow the lawn. I seriously am rather amazed at how quickly that grass grows. While I mowed, I was watched for some time by a bunny who was sitting a safe distance away in the yard behind mine. He was lying down, resting on his front paws, just watching. I wondered if he was just amused at us humans for our seemingly futile attempts to keep the grass at bay when Mr. Bunny knows full well, it'll just grow again. I also wondered if he was a little irritated that I was diminishing his grazing-source. He may very well be the bunny who sits on my lawn and has a snack every evening.

I'm a little suspicious of the bunnies now. I just planted a herb garden with nothing but culinary herbs: oregano, sage, thyme, tarragon, chives, parsley and mint. It was looking noticeably flatter last night when I mowed, almost as though it had been sat on. Since there were no bunny-sized bites out of the plants, I can't accuse them of making a snack out of my herbs but I'm definitely going to keep an eye on that. I did throw out some baby carrots a few times last week, thinking it might be nice for the bunnies to have a non-grass food source. The carrots vanished so I hope that means the rabbits ate them.

Still, I'm feeling slightly more domesticated these days. I'm getting into the habits that are normal to a homeowner. Wednesday nights are the night that the rubbish needs to go out to be picked up by the dustman in the mornings. So, now, Wednesday nights, I drag out my dustbin to the curb along with the rest of my neighbours. It's actually strangely satisfying. When I lived in the apartment, it was more a question of having to take the rubbish out and throw it in the dumpster whenever I was motivated. Now, I can just put it all outside and just put it on the curb once a week. It's quite fun; it's a little like the tooth fairy when you're a kid. You put that rubbish out and in the mornings it's vanished. I've yet to hear the sound of the the Rumpke Rubbish Trucks in the morning either. I've decided that for now, it's one of those mystical happenings. I don't want to see it being picked up. The mysterious disappearance of my garbage is rather a fun thing to behold, especially when I've put grass clippings in there. It's as close to Harry Potter magic as I'm likely to get.

I've also been continuing my cooking trend. I got some tomatillos and jalapenos at the farmer's market on Saturday so I made roasted tomatillo salsa verde the other night. I have to say, it was pretty delicious. I like it a little spicy so the jalapenos added the right amount of kick. I've also learned from prior experience that if you chop jalapenos with exposed hands, no matter how many times you wash them, you'll still feel a burn from the peppers if you accidentally touch or lips or, worse, rub your eyes. Thus I used gloves which proved to be a wise choice. I just have to remember not to use the gloves for anything else.

I'm blaming the Food Network for my cooking again. Now I have Direct TV, it's easy to watch the Food Network and I find too many of the shows to be highly watchable. They make me hungry and they make cooking look easy. It's fun but sometimes a little time-consuming. I find myself deciding to cook and it's after 8 p.m. before it's time to eat. Still, it is nice to resist the urge to order a pizza and use my fresh vegetables instead. Summer is great for fresh produce and I'm definitely making the most of it.

So, Captain Monkeypants is settling down into her new house. It's feeling more like home every day and I love the freedom I have in being a homeowner. I still can't lie and say I've decided that mowing the lawn is fun but it's becoming part of my weekly routine and that is definitely an improvement. It's also more fun if you have a bunny for company. Just as long as he stays out of my garden.

Happy Thursday.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Anthropology of the Midwest: Different Strokes for Different Folks

I'm ready for the weekend and it's only Wednesday. This does not bode well. It's turning out to be one of those weeks at work.

Ironically, work itself is going well. I'm learning to accept the fact that my idea of being busy and my company's idea of being busy are not quite the same. It's not a bad thing but life in the Midwest is a little slower than that of L.A. and it's something I'm adjusting to, slowly.

One thing I am also adjusting to is the difference in personalities and people in the Midwest to that of California. The stereotype of Californians is that they're tree hugger hippies even though if you live there, you realize that's actually the stereotype of Northern Californians. Southern Californians have the stereotype of more laid back and 'with it.'

I'm not sure about stereotypes but one thing I've noticed is that there is a different attitude to Californians. They're more open and friendly, willing to accept strangers. Having spent my teenage years in the Midwest and then moving back, I've noticed that the attitude here is different.

When I first moved to the U.S. from the UK, I had to go to school. For a while, I was a novelty: "The English Girl." After a while, people realized it wasn't that exciting and slowly moved away. I was left standing, not sure what I'd done wrong and had to start again from scratch to make friends when, in the beginning, I'd felt like things weren't so bad because people had been nice to me. When they stopped being nice and carried on with their lives, I wasn't prepared for it. It wasn't that they weren't still nice but they had better things to do than hang out with me.

Slowly, I found friends who were real friends who found my accent fun but weren't friends with me because I was British. As I graduated from high school, I'd found a couple of great friends, people who liked me for who I was and on who I could rely. I'm still friends with them today.

When I went to college, I found it surprisingly easy to make friends. Ironically, when I look back on it, most of my friends weren't really from the Midwest. They were from Texas, Alabama, California, New Jersey...all over the place. When I moved to California, I made friends much more easily. People seemed more open; while they might have a seperate life, they were willing to share it.

Now I'm back in the Midwest, I'm truly seeing the difference in personalities. It's hard to make friends here, real friends, I mean. It's not hard to find people to go to dinner with or go for drinks with that's just superficial stuff. I'm trying not to stereotype but Midwesterners are different; they're not so open. They're not rude, don't get me wrong. They're friendly. Yet they don't let you in to their lives easily. Rather than the casual, "hey, come on over" invitations that I got used to in L.A., here it is all about 'events.' You get to go to someone's house for an occasion, for a gathering but not just to 'hang out'. If they haven't known you for at least a couple of years, you're still an outsider.

I'm not saying everyone's like that but it's definetely a difference I'm noticing in attitudes. I have met a couple of people who are the exception, people who don't mind that they haven't known me a while and seem to really want to be friends.

And I'm not saying it's a bad thing; it's an attitude, a way of life. In the UK, we're overly polite about things. We apologize a lot, even for things that are not our fault. It's our way, it's what we do. I know that drives people nuts who aren't used to my way of life so I cannot be a hypocrite and say my way of life suits everyone. Yet, it's the way we are.

More than anything, it's an anthropological study in people. The Midwest is full of small towns and while they've got a lot of merits, they're not the places. Unless you're from a family with a recognizable name, people tend to treat you like a stranger, even if you've been living there for a while. After quite a few years, going on twenty, in town where my parent's live, we're still 'the English family.'

For me, more than anything, I need to remember that people are different wherever you go. I moved to the Midwest expecting life to be perfect and I'm finding it a lonelier place than I'm used to. I'm thankful my family is close enough that I can spend time with them and feel loved and accepted. I have some casual friends at work but most of them are that, casual, people who are friendly but have their ways and habits and don't like to change them.

I suppose I'm like that too; I have my ways and my habits. I won't say everyone here is like that because they're not. Yet lately, I'm realizing that I left behind more than a place in California; I left behind a whole life and while it's fun to start a new one, it's also a little hard. I love my house, I love my family but I also miss the life I got used to. I've been here a while now and the novelty of the snow, the greenness of the country, the laid-back pace of life is still there but the reality that this is my home, this is my world now is setting in and thus the shadows are becoming as visible as the beauty. I suppose this it the time when people say "the honeymoon is over" and I suppose that wouldn't be too far off.

And, again, I'm not saying any of this is a bad thing. I think it depends on what you're used to; People are different wherever you go and once you get used to that it's easier. My problem is that I got un-used to it and it's time to readjust my thinking. I just have to accept the fact that as with most things, finding a comfortable niche takes time. In the meantime, I must remember that just because my good friends aren't physically nearby doesn't mean I can't rely on them because I can. I will make friends here but it might take a little longer than I thought. As with everything else, things are slower here and that's not such a bad thing. Yet, when you've lived in a place where everything moves quickly, slowing down is not always easy. I'm trying though and I'll keep trying until I feel like I belong here.

And, if not, I'll just look out my window and see my lawn growing as a constant reminder than I'm home now, for better or for worse and while it's a wonderful thing, it's not always perfect. Nothing ever is. That's what makes life interesting.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Happy Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Joys of Flying: Paying More and Getting Less

It's muggy, grey, cloudy and humid out there. There's a strange mist hovering over the fields but it isn't over the water which is unusual. I drive by a cemetary every day and the mist was thicker there. Naturally, I find that fascinating and strangely magnetic; it's a natural creepiness that suits my dark sense of fiction.

It does make for a gloomy drive, one which is difficult when I am already wishing I didn't have to get up for work. Things feel more distant on days like this, as though I'm passing through a world that doesn't know I'm there.

But I am here now, earlier into the office than usual because there was less traffic than usual. Perhaps everyone else decided to stay home in bed.

However, I did not and here I sit, ready to start a new day of work. I also have another mission to accomplish while I work: I need to book a plane ticket.

The problem with the ticket is it's for next weekend. I'm usually much better organized than this when it comes to travel. However, I asked my boss last week in hopes I'd have permission to take a day off work and still haven't heard back. His lack of response has led to my procrastination.

Booking plane tickets these days is a complicated process. There are almost too many sites to on which to search. I usually start with my old standbys, and, sites which scan multiple travel sites for me. I usually figure out from these sites which airlines are currently cheapest then go to the actually airline sites to book. Lately though, this has not been the best method. It seems as though flight prices jump up and down within minutes. One minute, I get ready to book a ticket and I'm told "The price for this ticket is no longer available." This has happened to me no less than five times now.

I actually hate airlines. I think I used to like flying when it was a novelty. I've complained about airlines before, once or twice. The thing is, they're becoming more hateable by the day.

I know it's a bad economy and the airlines are businesses that are struggling. Thus, the prices are higher than ever and the perks are less than ever. I hate that but I get it. However, it's the service I'm starting to have trouble with.

I was watching the news today and I heard about a flight from Houston that left passengers stuck on the plane for 16 hours. It was one of those horrible little small planes, the kind that you really only want to get on, fly and get off immediately. Apparently, the plane was diverted to Rochester, NY because of bad weather. Rather than let the passengers off the plane, Continental Airlines told them that because there was no security at the airport, they had to stay on the plane. They sat on that runway for six hours. According to the airport, it was actually Continental's choice to leave the passenger's there: They had security and the space for the passengers to wait.

I've been stuck on a plane. Usually, it's on a flight which comes before another that already has a tight connection. Thus, those minutes or even hours that you sit there, waiting to take off, not knowing if you're actually going to are already filled with the stress of wondering if you'll make that connection. Add in the crying babies, smell from the bathrooms and stale, germ-infested air and you've got some miserable passengers.

Ironically, I've found airlines to be some of the worst customer-service businesses I've ever encountered. When a problem occurs such as a missed flight because of a delay, while the personnel at the ticket desks try to help, they don't go above and beyond to remedy the situation. I know this is not their fault which is why I try to keep my temper with them. No, it's the airlines' policies that suck. Take, for example, my parents. They had a recent flight to the UK on Delta. They were flying from Indianapolis where they encountered a delay. They knew they weren't going to make thier connecting flight, so did the airline. However, rather than have my parents come back the next day, they told my parents to get on the plane. So they did. By the time they got to Atlanta, they had, of course, missed their connection. To make matters worse, there were no flights available until the next night. Thus, my parents were stranded for almost 24 hours. If Delta had listened, they would have been able to spend that time in the comfort of their home. The interesting thing was though Delta offered a discount for the hotel, they would not pay for my parent's stay overnight in Atlanta, even though it was really their fault my parents got stuck.

I know. Things happen. Yet lately, they seem to happen far more. Not only are air tickets expensive to begin with but there's those taxes and fees on top of it. So you might find a ticket from Cincinnati to Las Vegas for $280 but by the time the fees and taxes have been added, the ticket is $380. longer a good price.

Then there's the fees incurred while travelling. American Airlines has now raised their baggage fees. It's now $20 to check the first bag, $30 for the second. This means, theoretically, you could pay $50 to be able to take enough stuff with you to go on a vacation. When you're already paying a lot more for the actual plane ticket than you'd like, those expenses just seem to be adding insult to injury. Let's not even talk about snacks on the plane. I recently flew American; they don't even take cash any more. You now have to give them a debit/credit card in order to be able to buy food or an alcoholic drink on a plane. This makes me worry about how much they're going to be charging in future. For me, using my debit/credit card is different from using cash. With cash, generally, it's been deducted in my mind from my bank account; I feel like it's ok to spend it. With my debit/credit card, I have to mentally calculate my bank balance and then decide if I want to spend the money, regardless of if I'm hungry and didn't get time to eat at the airport.

As I said, I know it's a bad economy and airlines need to make a profit. The crappy part is that we need to be able to fly. We don't have the luxury of time to drive to our destination and as I often regret, teleportation has yet to be invented. So, what do we do?

I'm not sure but I'm thinking that something has to change. Airlines need their profits but they're turning people off from flying because they're not raising their level of service to match the increasing prices. If they'd just treat passengers like people rather than cattle, that'd be a start. Also, do away with the class system. There's nothing more insulting than having a gate with a rope down the middle with a red carpet on one side for the 'elite' passengers. Ok, I get that businessmen who travel a lot get tired of us normal passengers being a little less efficient. I get that rich people pay more for their tickets to not be treated like cattle. But, really? Do we have to be quite so snobby as to have them walk on a red carpet? Really? It's not enough that we have to sit there patiently waiting to get on the plane knowing full well me might have to fight for overhead compartment space because we can't afford to pay $30 to check our bag? It's not enough that we know we Coach passengers are going to get stuck in the section with the crying babies and people who bring on really smelly food that pervades the air and makes us want to vomit?

Ironically, those businessmen and women who travel and get to walk on the red carpet are only getting to do so because they fly a lot. They rarely pay for their upgrades. Besides, they're travelling for business which means, chances are, they didn't even have to pay for their ticket. They can write off all their expenses so they can even check bags if they have to. Yes, I know I'm a little mean when I say this, but I often hope one of those business-suited men who stare at us 'cattle' with such disdain will trip on that red carpet and hold up the rest of the 'elite' line for a few moments.

So, who knows if I'll manage to book a ticket. I keep finding them at an affordable price only to see the exorbiant cost once fees and taxes have been added. Or, I find one that, even with the added charges, is still good only to see that it means a red-eye. I don't mind red-eyes sometimes but when it means I have to go to work as soon as I get off the plane, I prefer not to have to take one. Part of me likes the rabid search for the best price but when you're this close to the day you're going to fly, it's hard to find one. Wish me luck with that.

Of course, once I book my ticket, it means I get to go take my place with the rest of the cattle and experience the joys of flying coach.


Happy Tuesday.